It is time now to give a full and frank appraisal of another of the special bottles I procured over there in the USA. This is a single barrel expression of the Four Roses bourbon brand and it set me back like, $42.99 plus tax for 75cl and 50 lovely ABVs. Let’s get categorical.
Bit spesh this, int it? No box, but the bottle is a shape that frankly, I don’t know how to describe… vase-like, we’ll say. It has a leather collar (that has proved to be a bit of a hindrance, all told), a label with cask details handwritten on and it is sealed with a particularly tight and tidy wooden stopper – the result of which is a commendable squeeeeeeeak… squeak-pop on opening.
All present and correct. It looks good, dark and mysterious.
Yep, that’s what I was expecting: rich and bourbonny.
My first thoughts were that it was sharp and bitter without water, and sweet but disappointing with, but soon the oxidation began to work its magic and open this spiky beauty up. It took a few tastings for me to realise there was a technique involved. The bitterness had vanished andat first I fooled myself into thinking that adding water was a waste of time and spirit. Wrong. There is a lot of good flavour there on entry but as you work your way down the glass those extra ABVs start to take their toll and the burn comes to the fore. You don’t want to bypass the undiluted product entirely though, so first, enjoy the lusciousness untainted, but have that water on standby. There are no unpleasant flavours to excise, but that burn just niggles away until a few drops of water start to be a good idea. Then just add enough to soothe, and continue.
As ever with your stronger whiskies, it has proved to be a very fine line that is easily overstepped in trying to take the edge off that burn. I have sadly ruined far too many glasses by adding just a little too much and occasionally caused myself (wrongly) to question the overall quality of the product. If you’re careful, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to enjoy this bottle to the full.
So now that we’ve discussed all three of the bourbons I picked up last summer, we can arrange them in a definitive ranking and provide some help for you, should you be heading over there and thinking about picking something up. Obviously there are many, many more brands and varieties available than I have tried or can even dream of, but here’s the benefit of my experiences.
In third place it might surprise you to hear that I’m placing the Four Roses. While it may not be the product’s fault, I have to count the fact that I wasn’t able to enjoy it as much as I wanted to against it. That means the 8 year old Jim Beam Black can be runner-up. Working in that bottle’s favour was that it was so damn cheap and – surprisingly – that it was presented in so uncomplicated a fashion. It generally meant that I was able to be surprised at how tasty it was, and enjoy it without thinking I should be enjoying it more. On such arbitrary things are my conclusions based.
The overall winner then, as if there could be any doubt is the double oaked Woodford Reserve. I don’t want to repeat myself, so if you want to learn what made that so special, check last week’s post.
That represents the last time I’ll be focusing on bourbon for a while but there are plenty more reasons for you to come back – next week I’ll be taking you on a short booze finding expedition to to two major European cities; Amsterdam and Berlin. I know you’ll be back.